Tuesday, May 27, 2003

My DC/Northern Virginia Traffic Rant

Traffic Ok, so what is the deal with traffic around the DC area lately? It's always been bad, this coming from someone who lived and worked in LA for several years, but lately it's really gotten crazy out there! Lots of aggressive drivers jumping in and out of traffic, cutting off the people who are trying to be considerate. I've decided to put together a list of rules for driving in the DC area - if we all followed them, things would be a lot more pleasant on the roads out there.

DC Area Road Rules

Read them, Know them, Live them.

1. Slow Down. Slow down and obey the speed limit. If you are late, accept the fact that you are not in control of your schedule. Leave a little earlier next time, and chalk it up to a learning experience. If you hurry and you get there late, you're STILL LATE. If you hurry and you get in an accident and die, you NEVER GET THERE AT ALL.

2. Stay in your Lane. If you change lanes, signal first. Swerving in and out of lanes causes accidents, especially if you get two 'swervers' in the same stretch of road? Remember, it's your lane and you own it and no one can be right where you are unless they crash into it. Take comfort in the knowledge that you 'own' that little patch of concrete and think twice about swerving.

3. Don't Tailgate. Staying RIGHT behind someone might help you merge, but what if they have to throw on the brakes because of some other jerk ahead of them. Do you really want to be delayed more by an accident?.

4. Lane Usage. Figure out which lane you need to be in, then get in it early. Nothing infuriates people more than sitting in a long line of cars and then having some jerk jump over at the last second. If we all had to wait, isn't it fair that you wait also? Would you like it if someone cut you off or swerved in front of you to merge?

5. Intersection Etiquette. When passing through an intersection, STAY IN YOUR LANE. It is illegal to change lanes when passing through an intersection and, besides, it's stupid. What if someone sees that the lane is empty, starts to turn into it, and then you change lanes in the intersection? You'll hit them. And when you're turning, turn into the correct lane. If you're making a left-hand turn, turn into the left-hand most lane. Not the center lane, or the right lane, swinging all the way across the road. If you're making a right turn, you should turn into the right-hand most lane. If everyone did this, more people could turn into the intersections at the same time, speeding us all up.

6. The Beltway. Stay off "The Big Road," as one of my friends likes to call it, unless you need to be on it for more than one or two exits. Soccer moms going from one exit to the next, take the back roads. Truckers, find an alternate route AROUND the DC area. It's bad enough without a thousand 18 wheelers coming through. At least avoid town during rush hour!

7. Rain is Not Your Enemy. Rain falls from the sky, nourishing the plants and trees and very earth around us. Why are you frightened by the falling water? Why do you swerve, trying to miss the raindrops? Why do you abandon your car in the road when it rains? And snow is just frozen rain - you need not fear this strange cold visitor from the sky. If you fear it, stay home in your safe domicile and peer out warily from your double-paned windows. Observe the falling droplets as they strike the ground harmlessly. Repeat your mantra: "Rain is not my enemy."

I See You 8. Police Cars. See the picture of the police car to the right? Memorize it. That is exactly what a police car in Virginia looks like - nothing fancy, just a regular car painted with blue and white stripes and with a pretty red and blue light on top. Nothing exciting, nothing that should draw EVERYONE'S ATTENTION every time there is one by the side of the road, ticketing some poor slob. Now, the next time there is a police car by the side of the road and you are approaching it and you feel your eyes inextricably pulled in that direction ("I must look at the Police Car"), you don't need to look at it! You've already seen thousands, and this one is just like it. Unless there is some unfortunate incident happening that you might see on Cops later, just drive on past, ignoring the car, content with the knowledge that you've already seen it.

9. Better yet, Just Stay Home. I've got an idea for you - buy some really nice Patio Furniture, set up your grill, cook up some shish kebobs or BBQ chicken or ribs or burgers, then make up some margaritas and chill out at home. No traffic, no muss, no fuss. Here's a link for 15% Off Patio Furniture at Kmart.com. Relax a little.

Traffic Resources:
Here are some resources for you traffic-weary folks out there.
  • Dr. Gridlock's column in the Washington Post is essential reading for anyone with a car in the metro area.
  • The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains a pretty good site with lots of traffic information, maps, and some live traffic cams (I couldn't get them to work, so try back again on that)
  • Guaranteed Ride Home (otherwise known as GRH) from Commuter Connections provides commuters who regularly vanpool, carpool, bike, walk, or take transit with a reliable ride home when one of life's unexpected emergencies arises. Commuters are able to use GRH for personal emergencies and unscheduled overtime up to four times per year. Best of all, the ride home by cab, rental car, bus or train is free (excluding gratuity, fuel and insurance charges).
  • Click to know what's the latest with the traffic hell known as the Springfield Interchange Improvement Project.
  • Click to know what's going on with the Wilson Bridge.
  • VRE, or Virginia Railway Express, offers trains into and out of town. Skip the driving altogether!

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Finale Update:

    For you Buffy Fans out there, Joss Whedon did an interview with TV Guide discussing the Buffy Season finale, its impact on Angel, and some of the cliff-hangers and rough spots from the finale. Hear his take on Spike, Faith, bringing Dawn back as a Slayer, and more.

    Bruce Rules!

    In a surprise to just about everyone, the new film Bruce Almighty topped The Matrix Reloaded at the box office this weekend. Read about it here. Haven't seen it yet - as soon as I do, you'll be the first to know. And of course I'll post a review. This doesn't bode well for The Matrix Reloaded, which was supposed to be the big money maker for the summer. Maybe one too many bad review spoiled it for them. For my take on TMR, see my review below (5/22).

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